Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, founder and CEO of Sinovation Ventures and president of Sinovation Ventures Artificial Intelligence Institute, returned to his alma mater to deliver a keynote speech during the 2017 NTU Commencement Ceremony on June 4. In his address, Dr. Lee highlighted the key role artificial intelligence is expected to play in the future, and called on the graduating students to take advantage of artificial intelligence in making innovations and creating a better world.
The NTU alumnus began his speech by first congratulating the Class of 2017 for graduating from Taiwan's most elite university. He said that his return to NTU evoked memories of his student days of discovering the two true loves of his life: his wife and artificial intelligence. The former NTU student joked that he would nonetheless limit the scope of his address to artificial intelligence.
Dr. Lee predicted that artificial intelligence would replace 50% of existing jobs, likening the potentially immense influence of artificial intelligence to the profound impact of the Internet on human society. Artificial intelligence would be a two-edged sword that brings prosperity to some and anxiety and distress to others.
According to Dr. Lee, artificial intelligence will redefine the pyramid-like structure of the workforce, elevating "innovators" to the top level and placing experts of all fields on the level below. He said these roles would not be eliminated in the coming age of artificial intelligence.
Despite the anticipated transformations in the job market, the age of artificial intelligence would also be a time in which artists and cultural workers emerge and flourish. In addition, the profound changes to be brought by the development of artificial intelligence would create new research topics in such fields as psychology, philosophy, sociology, history, and anthropology. Dr. Lee further noted that students pursuing science degrees who also cultivate their appreciation of culture and the humanities would boost their value to employers because artificial intelligence would be incapable of replacing the human element.
According to Dr. Lee, 80-90% of the jobs to be available in the new workforce pyramid would be provided by service industries, where personal interaction, engagement, and emotional connections are of core importance. While artificial intelligence will bring revolutionary changes to human society, it will not satisfy people's need for direct interpersonal connections. This means there remains great potential for the development of service industries in the age of artificial intelligence.
Dr. Lee cited one of British science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke's famous three laws, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." The speaker called on the graduates of all majors to view artificial intelligence as powerful magic. He said the point was to make good use of artificial intelligence as a powerful tool in one's own field while setting learning goals and striving to become valuable professionals who cannot themselves be replaced by artificial intelligence.
Faced with the emergence of artificial intelligence, Dr. Lee pointed out, one is responsible for making wise career choices and reconnecting Taiwan to the world. He urged the graduates to use the powerful magic of artificial intelligence to broaden their horizons, pursue international connections, and fulfill their social responsibilities.
Near the end of his speech, Dr. Lee talked about how his experience of fighting cancer had changed his life priorities, philosophy, and values as well as inspired him to reexamine artificial intelligence from a newly-gained perspective. He stressed that while artificial intelligence would outperform human beings in more and more fields, the quality that makes humans different from artificial intelligence is our ability to love and be loved. With this ability, he said, people should learn to live meaningful lives of both the mind and the heart.
Dr. Lee concluded by urging the members of the Class of 2017 to set goals for the careers they wish to pursue in the future workforce pyramid, reflect on how to lead the coming era using artificial intelligence, and follow their dreams while keeping an ear to their inner voices.